Product Reviews

Qadabra Malware or Legit Review

Qadabra Ad Network invited us to join their publisher network for display ads and pop ups.

We get so many requests for publisher networks that it’s hard to separate the legit from fakes. The first phase of review seemed to produce favorable results. The email invitation comes from an actual person with an actual mail address and phone number. I was able to search and find enough information about that person (Linked In page, Facebook, etc…) to believe that they are a legit company. Additionally, their website and community discussion groups suggest they are a good alternative or supplement to Google’s Adsense Network.

AWS Windows

How to Copy Files to AWS EC2 Server From Windows PC With Command Prompt

If you run AWS servers from a Windows PC, you need an easy way to transfer files up and back from your work desktop to the server and back.

Linux users have the ease of native SSH tools such as SCP built in to their command tool utilities, and Windows users want the same flexibility.

Follow these easy steps and you’ll be transferring files in a flash.

1.  Get PSCP
Download the Putty tool PSCP (Putty SCP) for secure file transfer on Windows.  This is a freeware tool.

Browser Tools Internet Tips & Tricks Linux PHP Programming

Easiest Way to Have a USA IP Address

Free and Legal Method for Acquiring a Reliable USA IP Address For Testing and Surfing While Outside the USA.

Q. You’re located outside the USA and need to test what your website looks like to your USA visitors.  What’s the easiest way to accomplish this for free an without pesky and unstable ip cloaks and expensive ip proxy address forwarders.

A. If you have a server already located in the USA, all you need to do is to connect via SSH to your server with a port tunnel and then configure your browser to access all non local internet connections through that port.

Step by Step Guide to SSH Tunnel:

Browser Tools Photography

Dropbox’s Carousel Shutting Down

From an official Dropbox communication:

“On March 31st, we’re shutting down Carousel as a standalone app and returning to a single Dropbox photo experience. Carousel has always been a way to view and interact with photos stored in Dropbox. All the photos in your Carousel timeline will remain safe in your Dropbox where they’ve always been”

AWS Ubuntu Server Setup

Ubuntu Server How to Configure for Sendmail Port 587

Avoid AWS Blocking your Server from sending emails!
I was using AWS Amazon’s Web Service and one of my servers was set to reply to users contacting with a generic response. I had configured Sendmail and tested everything was working fine.

A day later, I got a message from AWS:

You recently reached a limit on the volume of email you were able to send out of SMTP port 25 on your instance…In order to maintain the quality of EC2 addresses for sending email, we enforce default limits on the amount of email that can be sent from EC2 accounts. If you wish to send larger amounts of email from EC2, you can apply to have these limits removed from your account by filling out our online request form.

What’s happening here is that SMTP is automatically set to use port 25 for sending out emails.  Port 25 is an open port and ISPs, along with AWS limits the traffic on that port to avoid spammers compromising or commandeering their servers for their own pursuits.

Move SMTP to port 587

Move your SMTP outbound traffic to port 587.  Port 587 is an MSA (message submission agent) port that requires SMTP authentication.  Keep in mind that port 587 is not intended for spam either.  It is, however, a better port to use to send authorized  emails from your server to your legitimate users.

Here’s the Fix!

Here’s how you can easily start sending email traffic over port 587 and possibly get off your ISP’s blacklist.


14 SEO Tips From Google’s Matt Cutts Pubcon 2013 Las Vegas Keynote

When Matt Cutts speaks, people listen. Google Search is trying harder, now more than ever, to communicate to the SEO universe what to expect as the algorithm universe continues to shake, rattle, and roll.

Here’s the top SEO tips and takeaways from Matt’s talk yesterday at Pubcon in Las Vegas.

Moonshot Changes

Google will be looking to shift the search experience to enable users of today’s devices to get the results they need more quickly. Examples include, voice search, conversational search, google now, deep learning, and
word pair relationships.

1. Conversational Search can be a major boon to the way we get information.
Here’s how it can work: Search will become a dialogue with Google.

Search for “Who is the President of Turkey”? You’ll get the expected results – most likely including an infographic of Tecip Erdogan. Next, search, “how old is he” and Google knows from first search who you’re talking about and provides Erdogan’s age.

Another example of conversational search:
“What’s the chance of rain today” – Google determines your location and gives you the results.
“this weekend” -Google responds with weather for this weekend at your location (even though weather wasn’t mentioned in the 2nd query).

Core Quality Changes

2. Hummingbird – Although no one other than Matt is clear what Hummingbird actually does, he did provide an example of how long tail queries may be affected. In the search “What is the capital of ever loving Texas” – “ever loving” is not important. Understanding long tail and figuring out what words are important from the search will be the biggest improvement from Hummingbird. Matt estimates that this change affects 90% of all queries (!), but not much actual change on each one.

3. Panda Softening – The Google Webspam team continues to work on how to determine if a site is “black”, “white”, or (as for many who were affected in Panda’s wake) are they in the grey zone and deserves to be back in the quality space.

4. Mobile/Smartphone Ranking – It’s likely that at some point in the future, websites will lose rank for a page that has flash and is geared for smartphone users who don’t have flash support.

5. Webspam Changes
Penguin 2.0 and 2.1 will continue to roll out.
Continues Algo tweaking for very spammy queries – like “payday loans” “car insurance” porno, etc…
Advertorials / native advertising – paid content needs to be stated clearly.
Continuing action on spam networks.

6. Google Communitcation
new videos on google support forums for malware/hacking prevention
webmaster office hours, hangouts on air, 100 speaking events
How search works website – HIGHLY recommended to look thru this. pure spam explained, etc…
Follow Google Webmaster Tools on Twitter @googlewmc
Read Google’s Webmaster Blog
Read Google’s Inside Search Blog
Check out the Webmaster Video Channel on Youtube

7. Future of Search
What are the next big future trends?
– Machine Learning – extrapolate and add value
– Mobile – Mobile is HUGE. Traffic is exploding exponentially and ahead of expectations. You need to be there. 40% of Youtube’s traffic already comes from mobile. In some countries, mobile has already surpassed desktop traffic!
You need to prepare your website for mobile NOW.
Social Identity Authoriship – great way to prevent spam. in long term, having good social signals is authority that will help you in the search engines. even though it doesn’t necessarily give you better rank today.

Advice – The most important takeaways!

8. Mobile – see above & get ready!!! get rid of flash on pages that are meant for mobile platform users.
9. Learn about requestAutocomplete – annotate your forms to help users to get forms filled with one click
10. Ad heavy pages above the fold will eventually lose rank. Put your content first and center to give your users a more quality experience.
11. Tightening Authorship – google may remove ~15% of authors to make sure the Author graphic is trustworthy
12. Rich Snippets – may depend on site quality – reputable and high quality sites will be trusted for rich snippets. and vice versa.
13. Google will get smarter on Javascript indexing – I’m thinking that will help websites that use Disqus for their commenting system.
14. Disavow for Negative SEO – not as big a phenomenon as people think. Download links from Webmaster Tools and try to get them removed, and/or use the disavow tool on Webmaster Tools if necessary.

Matt hung around for quite some time after the keynote to shmooze with conference attendees who hung on to his every word.

AWS Web Servers

AWS Micro Servers Are Not Cheap But You Have Options

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has an amazing array of web servers and options for everyone (Netflix is their biggest customer).
For a new customer, the first year includes a ‘free-tier‘ which generously reduces prices, and some services are even free.

I signed up and moved to AWS a little over a year ago. You need familiarize yourself with their nomenclature and how to navigate their control panel. Once you get the hang of it, everything goes very smoothly. They even give you basic server monitoring tools for free during the first year. The free support is good too, if you’re willing to read through forums of how others solved your problems. You can pay for a higher level of support that gives you one-on-one responses.

In the back of my head I remembered that the first year was coming to a close. I thought the micro server cost (their smallest dedicated size) was under $10/month…
So, when I received an automated email from AWS reminding me that the year would end in July, I figured I’d let it continue until I had time to look into alternatives.

Well, today I had a look… They offer a very good online calculator for you to plan and know exactly what your monthly costs will be (actually, they bill in hourly segments. It actually gets that granular!). Bottom line, 1 micro (tiny) server at their Virginia location, with a dedicated ip address (“Elastic IP”) and one volume, currently costs about $18.50 / month with no long term commitments. You can even start up and terminate a server for a few hours to test something and only pay for the hours used.

There are ways to lower the annual cost for a dedicated server. For example, you can commit to a yearly contract, and pay a reduced upfront fee, and then a small monthly charge. Doing it that way drops the cost to less than half.

Here’s a link to the Amazon AWS Web Services Monthly Cost Calculator where you can calculate your own costs if you’re thinking of moving there.

Development PHP Programming

Unable to open HTML href link in iOS iPhone

URL’s opening to the same page on your iOs, iPhone, iPad development HTML.

The Problem – href links open to the same page, sometimes with a dot or grey plus sign appearing on the page.

If you’re developing an html page for iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod, and you’re wondering why the href links all open back to the same page, then I think I have a simple solution for you. There’s an explanation for why this is happening, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. I’ve seen others suggest to build your entire website into one index page, but that’s not feasable for more than a very simple static website.

The Solution
Add target=self to the “a” tag and that should bypass the navigation issues.


< a target=”_self” href=”page2.html” class=”ui-btn ui-shadow ui-btn-corner-all ui-btn-up-c btn-showpg list-bttn” id=”showpg”>Link Description


Nikon D600 Spots Problem Fix

Nikon D600 : The Photo Enthusiast’s Dream DSLR
As an owner of several Nikon bodies and lenses, I was very excited when Nikon released the D600 camera.
Finally, an “affordable” full frame DSLR (assuming you consider $2,000 for just the body as “affordable”).
It’s somewhat of a hybrid in performance, features, and cost between it’s older brother, the D800, and it’s cousin the D7100.

The early reviews were very positive on image quality and features. See Popular Photo December 2012 issue for a detailed review, and a November 2012 DPREVIEW does a nice in depth review here. I waited a month or so for the early bugs to be discovered and then jumped in.

Spots Noticed
The buzz from the early birds was that there was a pattern of spots growing on the upper-left to center of the frame as more shots were taken. Some bloggers suggested it was from oil spots that were spattering from the back of the mirror. They suggested that as the mirror flies up to expose the image sensor, apparently some of the lubrication on the mirror was making it’s way to the sensor.

Meanwhile, Nikon hadn’t officially responded to these claims. Other owners were syaing that Nikon had resolved the issue and in updated versions of the camera, the problem had been fixed. This is very unlikely in such a short timeframe to engineer a fix and ramp up production with the fix, and ship all these fixed cameras around the world. I figured, more likely, that the problem was overstated and/or limited to specific uses – perhaps heavy zoom lens users that pump air in to the camera.

I Had Spots Too
My first images with the new camera were simply stunning. Nothing like slapping a super wide lens on a full frame DSLR. The landscapes were rich with color and the images were startling clean and beautiful. Then, the spots came… And, they came, and they came. And before I knew it, the images were filthy with spots just as the others had written about.

Nikon Official Announcement
On Mar 25, 2013 Nikon finally acknowledged that there was a problem here. The announcement goes like this:

Some users have indicated the appearance of multiple granular dust spots in images captured with the Nikon D600 digital-SLR camera. These granular dust spots are reflections of internal dust generated with camera operation, or external dust particles that have found their way into the camera, either, or both of which, have adhered to the camera’s low-pass filter.

The good news is that they also offer a resolution to the problem:

“As a first step, please follow the guidance from the User’s Manual (pages 301-305) related to the “Clean Image Sensor” function and manual cleaning using a blower. If these measures do not remove all dust particles and you are still experiencing problems, then please consult your nearest Nikon service center.” …

Actually, you can set your D600 to automatically clean the image sensor when you turn on and off the camera – however, that’s not likely going to solve this problem. By the way, here’s a link to the Nikon D600 manual in case you don’t have your’s handy.

Do What Nikon Says to Do!
First thing I noticed about the announcement: they do not mention oil ever. They said there may be “external dust particles”. I do not believe in conspiracy theories. With litteraly thousands of blog posts from users complaining about spots, I’m sure Nikon wouldn’t try to cover it up with lies. You can only fool the public for so long. If there is/was an oil spots problem, Nikon would have to fess up. At least as of now, they are not calling it oil, but dust. That’s good news for camera owners! Dust can be blown away, oil, not so much…

Here’s the Fix – It’s as Simple as 1-2-3
Who wants to deal with the hassle of getting an authorization from the service center, sending it back, and waiting for its return? Instead, just as Nikon suggested, I disbelievingly took out my blower and blew on the inside of the camera, first on the back of the mirror, and then by pressing the live view, which opens the mirror and locks it up, I blew into the sensor area and lightly on the sensor itself. I was not able to see any spots physically accumulating on the sensor before blowing, and didn’t notice any change afterwards. However, to my great surprise, the photos taken after the blower cleaning were spotless. Have a look at the before and after and let me know what you think.

1. Before With Spots – Photo untouched, cropped to enlarge the upper left portion of the frame.

Click on photo to see detail.
Nikon D600 With Spots

Nikon D600 With Spots
2. The Fix: Use Blower on Camera’s Image Sensor

3. After Without Spots – Photo untouched, cropped to enlarge the same area.

Click on photo to see detail.


Conclusion & Reccomendation
If you have spots accumulation problems, first check to see if Nikon has issued any new announcements on the D600. They may also release firmware updates, so it’s a good idea to check their website from time to time. Assuming there isn’t a recall, or some new information about these dreaded spots, simply pick up your blower (or buy one at your favorite camera store for about $8 — The Rocket Blower costs about $7.99 online). Clean the inside of the camera where the lens is mounted by pumping air in and around with the opening to the camera facing down so that the agitated dust particles can fall safely out of the camera. If that doesn’t do the trick, then call Nikon for a service authorization. From my experience though, the blower solution should work. Please let us know how it worked out for you.

Update August 2013:

As others have commented, this issue is not going away. I’ve personally cleaned my D600 Sensor 3 more times since first writing about this problem. Fortunately, I haven’t had to send it in for servicing yet. I am using the Digital Survival Kit with Type 3 swabs (24.0 mm) that I purchased on Amazon for about $22. It is a bit tedious, but it does work if you follow the directions.

Although the images are stunning when the sensor is clean, the concern is how to maintain this $2,000 camera body going forward. Having to clean sensors every 1,000 or so images is a lot of work. I also have a lot invested in Nikon glass, so I’m not running to another system just yet. However, I can’t in good conscience recommend others to purchase the Nikon D600 until the spots on sensor problem is confirmed fixed by the user community.

Have a look at the photos below. Wallace Falls National Park near Seattle WA. The falls shots got spotted up, which is clearly seen in the middle photo, as I didn’t check it that morning before heading out. I cleaned the sensor and the bird shots near Tacoma the next day came out fine.

_ABC2945 _ABC2978 _ABC3192

Recommendation: At this point, I would suggest anyone considering purchasing a Nikon D600 body, or any advanced DSLR for that matter, to make sure that these spotting issues have been resolved before you chunk down your wad of money. Try to get a range of serial numbers or manufacture after date that is known to be good. It’s not always feasible to know what serial number you’re getting – especially from mail order. If you want to be sure, go to your favorite local camera store and purchase one there, having inspected the box before pulling out your credit card. It may cost you a few extra dollars (everyone pays taxes, even Amazon customers, right…), but at least you’ll have some peace of mind. Please let us know your experiences…

Internet Tips & Tricks Wordpress / Blogs

Fix WordPress Plugins Auto Update

Summary: Fix WordPress to auto update plugins without requiring an FTP password.

If you manage your own blog with WordPress you will often need to update plugins to their newer versions. Depending on how your blog was initially set up, when you click on update you may get a screen that asks for a FTP username and password. There is a fix that will enable you to automatically update all your plugins and themes.

This fix should work for versions of WordPress 2.8 and above.